This innovative book investigates the process through which ethnic minorities penetrate into higher echelons of political power: specifically, how they succeed in getting elected to the U.S. Congress. Analysts today see ethnic politicians largely in relation to their collectivities, but by actually studying what ethnic minority politicians do and the issues they have faced, Jiménez's book offers an original perspective of analysis.
Jiménez utilizes a ground-breaking comparative dataset of elected members of Congress organized upon the basis of national origin, the first available. Using the cases of Mexican-Americans and Italian-Americans, Jimenez analyzes and compares the different ways that these ethnic politicians have been elected to the national legislature from the beginning of the 20th century until the present. Her study examines Italian and Mexican-American politicians’ actions and interactions with local political parties, identifies various layers of political power that have influenced their successes and failures, and uncovers the strategies that they have used. Jimenez argues that the politically active segment of an ethnic group matters in the process of political incorporation of a group. She also asserts that regular access of ethnic groups into upper levels of political office and the full acceptance of new ethnic players only occurs as a consequence of an institutional change.
Jiménez’s pioneering documentation and analysis of the strategies of ethnic minority politicians and the ways that political institutions have influenced these politicians is significant to scholars of political incorporation, race and ethnicity, and congressional elections. Her book demonstrates the need to reconsider several standard ideas of how minority representation occurs and deepens our understanding of the role that political institutions play in that process.
"In Inventive Politicians and Ethnic Ascent in American Politics: The Uphill Elections of Italians and Mexicans to the U.S. Congress, Miriam Jiménez offers a series of rich, detailed case studies of the election of several of the first Italian Americans and Mexican Americans to Congress. In the process, she develops a model of ethnic political organization and political influence that speaks broadly to the process of ethnic political incorporation in the United States. Jiménez’s study carefully assesses not just the ethnic candidates who sought election to Congress and how they positioned themselves among co-ethnics, but also the critical role of changing political environments and institutional relationships necessary to ensure their election to office. This book adds to our understanding of the likely future electoral influence of today’s immigrant-ethnic populations."
—Louis DeSipio, University of California, Irvine
"Miriam Jiménez’s innovative micro-political approach in this book yields new insights that turn some of the axioms of common wisdom on their head. As a result, the book breathes freshness into a comparison between Italians and Mexicans that has become a bit stale in the hands of others."
—Richard Alba, The Graduate Center, CUNY
Part I. Politicians, Institutions, and Change. 1. Uphill Struggles and Inventive Politicians 2. Italians and Mexicans in the U.S.: A Brief Historical Survey Part II. When Local Parties Ruled. 3. Big Machines and Inventive Italians 4. Mexican Americans: Invisibility and Exception Part III. National Standards—and More Parties 5. Italian-Americans: New Rules, Challenges, and Change 6. Mexican Americans: New Rules and Old Problems Part IV. Ethnic Ascent from a Micro Scale of Observation 7. Conclusion